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What is PSCH 396?

Psychology 396: Directed Research is a course in which undergraduate students can get the experience of being a part of an active research program in Psychology, and earn credit for assisting faculty members and graduate students with their research. You must have successfully completed Psch 242 (Introduction to Research in Psychology) to participate in directed research (Psychology 396).Time commitment is generally 3 hours of effort per week for each hour of credit. Number of credit hours is arranged with the faculty sponsor, and can range from 1-3 hours. (A combined maximum of 8 credits from 396, 397 and 399 can be used toward the degree). Tasks can involve a wide range of activities from any or all phases of the research process, including assisting with library research, data entry or coding, animal care and training, human participant recruitment or interviewing, preparing and administering surveys, or running experiments. Specific tasks and topics of research are completely determined by the Faculty Sponsor, so every 396 experience is a little different!

In order to enroll for this course, you must have a faculty sponsor.  To find a faculty sponsor, we recommend visiting the UIC Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) Website.  To find research opportunities, go to "Search for research experiences"or type words of interest (e.g., cognitive development) into the search box shown at the top of this page.  The keyword search acts like a simple search: If a researcher's profile contains the word(s) of interest you type in, the profile will be displayed.  Or, you may search by researcher, college, or department.  If you have questions, contact uresupport@uic.edu.

To further aid undergraduates and faculty mentors in finding each other, every Fall and Spring semester PSI CHI offers a MATCHMAKER event on the First Friday of the Term. At Matchmaker, researchers who are looking for undergraduate research assistants give short presentations on their research. Contact information for these labs is available on the research opportunities webpage. If you find one of the labs to be of interest, then contact them and find out if they have special requirements or an interview process.

When contacting researchers to see if they would be interested in sponsoring you (either through email or the URE Webform), remember that you only get one chance to make a strong first impression.  You will be much more likely to get a positive response (or a response at all) if your message is well written and explains what particular areas of that faculty member's research you are interested in.  Giving some background about yourself (your major, year at UIC, and relevant courses you have taken) is also a good idea.  DO NOT SEND A GENERIC EMAIL TO ALL FACULTY AT ONCE.  This is the equivalent of spam and shows that you could not be bothered to take the time to research which lab might be the best match for you.  You are unlikely to get many responses if you send a mass email. But, if you follow the advice given above, you may be able to find a match well before the semester begins.  

Once a faculty member has agreed to sponsor you for 396, and only if a faculty member has agreed to sponsor you, then you signup for their section of 396 online. To sign up for PSCH 396, you now sign up just like any other course in the online system.

In order to receive credit for 396, a final report describing the research project you assisted with and the theory behind it is required to be turned into the faculty sponsor by the last day of classes for the semester.

Besides 396 credit, students may also wish to get involved in research in order to fulfill Honors College Activity requirements, or students may volunteer for the experience. Either way, getting involved in research labs is a great opportunity to see the research process from the inside, especially if you are interested in applying to PhD programs in Psychology or other graduate programs. 

Finally, for students who may be interested in eventually conducting their own Independent Research (PSCH 399), participation in 396 (and sometimes 397) is often required by a faculty sponsor before they will agree to serve as your mentor on your own project.  For many reasons, PSCH 396 is a great way to build a relationship with a Psychology faculty member here at UIC.

For more information, see the psychology department's page here.

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